So What Have You Learned From 2008?

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The world seemed to turn upside down in 2008. It left us scarred, bewildered and considerably poorer. It also forever changed the nature of business and the people who run it. 2008 will be remembered as a turning point for many of us because we lived through a year in which the stock market melted down, major financial institutions disappeared, credit dried up, real estate wilted and customers changed their buying habits. But like survivors of a tragedy will remind you, it's what you learned from the experience that matters most. Here's what I've culled from my talks with a host of industry players.

ROBERT C. DEMARZOCan be reached via e-mail at

Learn how to take a profit. We should all pray for the wisdom to know when to take a profit, no matter how small or large. But despite past meltdowns and burst bubbles, I haven't met anyone in the industry who took a profit this year by selling a stock or a piece of real estate.

As we all learned, what starts out well can end ugly. Earlier this year, we all had a skip in our step. Sure, pressures were mounting, but no one could have forecast how far things would fall. Many people have told me the lesson they learned was to expect the unexpected. When customer expectations turned on a dime, no one was really prepared. They were selling and expending based on business models that vanished almost overnight. When the economy started to falter, customers pulled back spending on business expenses and technology projects. Where funding remained, customers requested a clearly articulated ROI or a way to lower costs. Everyone looks back wondering why those pillars were not part of every sales pitch. VARs or others who could not explain the value were cut out of the deal.

For many, time took on new meaning in 2008, and it will be even more precious in the future. Everyone in the industry is putting a higher price on their time, even if someone is buying you lunch. In speaking with dozens of individuals who attend live or online industry gatherings, I've found they are obsessed with their time and never wasting any of it ever again.

There was more excess in budgets than any bean counter could have dreamed of. When you look at all the costs companies have taken out of their marketing or sales budgets recently, you cannot imagine how those dollars got there in the first place. Because of this, CEOs will never manage the same, and that is a shame. Many tell me their leaders are so focused on cost-reduction that they are growing concerned about who is setting strategy and driving the firm forward.

At a recent solution provider conference, I asked dozens of VARs and vendors for their input, and here is what they added. One solution provider said he learned that he had to keep his firm's costs as low as possible whether times are good or bad. Another said he learned that relationships with customers and partners are the most important business assets, particularly when things go south. Let me end with the funniest lesson learned from a longtime solution provider: "I learned that everyone became a macroeconomic expert!"

Everything Channel SVP and Editorial Director Robert C. DeMarzo is at

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